Oregon Coast Camping Trip, August, 2009 – day-by-day…
Saturday, August 15
Left at 10:15 am, 2 and a quarter hours later than planned, but that was no surprise. The drive to Boise went by quickly and after a snack stop at Subway we were on our way across the border to Oregon. Thanks to a combination of snacks (most rather messy to Brian’s dismay) and a portable DVD player with three episodes of Signing Time on repeat, Owen was a dream on the journey, especially compared to our hellish 8 hour drive to Nevada in July. He just fussed a few times, and I was kept busy keeping him entertained for the odd hour here and there. But thankfully there was quite a lot of sleeping involved, which did mean I had my eyes closed for a lot of the scenery – although I’m told I didn’t miss much. I was woken once we arrived in the Columbia River Gorge. It was quite a sight to see, a massive river cutting through the mountains, but sights can be deceiving as, apparently, it was actually the other way around…
Rolled along the major highway that runs the length of the Gorge, until Brian decided it might be fun to take the “Historic” highway for a few miles. And it might well have been, had we not been towing a trailer and the historic section we chose happened to be almost vertical and twistier than a twizzler… . Once I felt safe enough to open my eyes again, I did get to see the pretty side of the Gorge. While the rocks and river themselves are dramatic and spectacular, the towns and roadside stops were unremarkable, not surprisingly as there is very little land right down by the river. But back up in the mountainsides above the river we discovered pretty little villages and rolling hillsides, somewhat reminiscent of the English countryside. Ramshackle orchards produce a bounty of fruit, judging by the copious roadside fruit stands (sadly all closed as we passed by).
After a brief panic when we found our hoped-for camping spot in Ainsworth State Park, completely full and with no idea where else to go, we stumbled across Crown Point RV Park in Corbett – one of those cute little towns up in the mountainside. Quiet and peaceful, with lovely views of the sunset over those rolling green hills, we settled down happily for the night.
Sunday, August 16
Woke early to take a drive on the old CRG hwy (without the trailer this time!) down to Multnomah Falls, the fourth largest waterfall in the country and the most visited natural wonder in Oregon. The waterfall itself is quite modest, as giant walls of water go, but the setting is spectacular. We were the first ones to arrive at the Multnomah Falls Lodge, getting us the best seat in the house (in the conservatory with the falls right above us) for the all-you-can-eat brunch buffet, which are some of my favorite words in the English language… . It was pretty good, but as I’m not a big seafood-for-breakfast eater I wasn’t as thrilled as Brian was.
After breakfast we headed West and picked up some out-of-this-world-fresh blueberries from a farm stand to keep us going for the drive to the coast. We drove through the town of Troutdale to the McMeniman’s Edgefield, a restaurant cum brewery cum hotel cum golf course cum Brian’s newest favorite place on earth. It was here Owen started his career as a master thief by pinching a golf ball.
On through Portland and towards the coast and Cannon Beach. Stopped at another farm stand on the way and stocked up on honeycomb, tomatoes, elephant garlic and apples all for under $10!
Drove through Cannon Beach – a picturesque, busy little seaside town – on down to our home for the next 2 nights in Nehalem Bay State Park, just outside of the quieter but still cute Manzanita. Spot #38C was perfect, steps from the ocean… . Took the short path and got our first smell of the Pacific. The windy wild beach was dramatic, sandy and spectacular. Stanley has found his heaven – running freely on the sand, diving into the icy water and scaring the poo out of seagulls – literally. Best of all it was deserted, no one around – after a few minutes walk we’d turn around to head back and our footsteps were erased, as if we were never there – as if no one was ever there.
Popped into town to check out the local grocery store, quaint and cramped. Picked up some fresh tuna for the campfire and settled in for our first night on the coast. Unfortunately Owen’s stomach had other plans. He threw up pretty much all night long, mummy held him through the worst of it and he managed a little sleep. Come morning it was like it had never happened… however, Brian’s crabbing trip was out the window.
Monday, August 17
Beautiful early morning beach walk – Rinsey even got to run off leash. Stopped in Manzanita for coffee and a bagel before driving to Cannon Beach for a day of exploring. Enjoyed strolling around the town eating elephant’s ears (like really big, skinny doughnuts). Had lunch at Warren House Pub, complete with in-house brewed Bill’s Blackberry Porter. Hit the beach on the way back to camp, Oswold West State Park – a long winding walk through thick forest down to a rocky cove, clearly a popular spot with surfers. Brian and Owen explored the tidepools while mummy enjoyed a windswept sandy moment to read her book. After braving the exfoliating wind for as long as we could we headed to the laundromat to clean up after last night’s mess. Popped into Nehalem’s Pizza Garden for a beer before spending time with the tumble dryer. Dinner at Manzantia’s Seafood House was a little disappointing, good fish, small portions, tasteless clam chowder, but Owen had fun playing with a little girl and boy around his age.
Tuesday, August 18
Brian up at 5:30am to crab, back at 10:30am with 7 crab – v. wet and v. mad (Brian, not the crab), due to a nasty lady at the crab shack… . We packed up in a hurry, as we had no campground reservations for next 5 days and have just realized that we are on the Oregon Coast at the busiest time of year and every campground is full! Drive full bore down 101 hoping to get to the one campground on the coast that doesn’t take reservations before it fills up. But this means we can’t stop for anything! Apart from the Tillamook Cheese factory of course – which actually turned out to be a bit of a nightmare – Disneyland for cheese but with no rides and lots of queues. Can’t believe a run-of-the-mill, literal factory is such a huge tourist draw. I’ve been to the Wensleydale Creamery in Yorkshire and that was far more modest and far more interesting. This was that place, on acid! Did manage to pick up some pretty decent aged cheddar though, that was hidden in a corner behind all the bright orange stuff.
Down the coast… Beverley Beach campground: FULL. South Beach Campground: FULL. Beachside – 2 spots left – phew! Oh no – one right by the road and unbearably noisy. The other, a bit better but the trailer won’t fit! Arrggghhh… on we go (leaving the dogs food bowl behind – ooops). Yea – a Forest Service campground, with no FULL sign out front… follow a truck in to it. Yep. He nabs the last spot. Drat… oh, but wait. Is that a spot right by the entrance?? We slide into it gratefully, no hookups and by the road, but sheltered and a nice spot. A walk on the beach for the pup’s relief prompts another suggestion to move (Jenni put off by the dead seal in the middle of the rather barren beach). Back at the car Brian gets in the truck and goes to explore the one campsite that doesn’t take reservations, even though it’s already 6:30p.m. and likely everything will be gone. Jenni hovers nervously around the trailer and tries to dodge the Park Attendant who wants her cash…. Brian calls – he has a spot!! Rock Creek National Forest campground, spot #2. Sadly he just missed the last one at the hoped for no-reservations campground… but at one right next to it. It’s on a creek and is gorgeous – but no hookups… so we head to that one, set up for the night and have a fabulous meal (crab caught that morning, Rose wine from the CRG, fruit salad with blueberries fresh picked in the CRG, snap peas from our garden, cheese fresh from Tillamook, tomatoes from just outside Portland.) After a day of way too much unnecessary stress we relax in a rainforest by a babbling creek a few yards from the roaring ocean. This stretch of coast is by far the most dramatic and beautiful we’ve seen. Rock pools, dramatic cliffs, abundant sea life, all bordered by a rolling landscape of lush vegetation.
Wednesday, August 19
The next morning I wake up to Brian teaching Owen to blow raspberries on my belly – so cute! All is well. We go for a walk at Ocean Beach and explore the deserted shores. Our first rock pools offer up a bounty of giant starfish and sea anemones. We head back for breakfast and Brian goes off to get us a spot at the original campground in Carl Washburn State Park – he finds a great spot, hookups and lots of space and privacy.
We decide today should be a day of relaxation, I read my book in the hammock while Owen naps and Brian heads into Florence for a few groceries. When he returns we go for a drive and check out Heceta Lighthouse and beach, then for a beach walk here in the mist.
Came home and went into Yachats for dinner – very sleepy little town. Eat at the lively and clearly popular Drift Inn, Brian a seafood lasagne and me a yummy, healthy crab and artichoke concoction with wild rice.
Thursday, August 20
Woke up early to a crabby boy…. And a crabby husband once he discovered that Stanley had chewed his way through his brand new collapsible crate during the course of the night.
Hit the beach, again deserted, but today chilly and wet! Pups run wild on beach….
Head back north to visit the Newport Aquarium – Owen LOVES it. Really interacts with the sea creatures especially loves the Sea Otters and the birds. Then we hit the Rogue Brewery – Brian LOVES it. Then back through Yachats where I get to do a little shopping (of the window variety), although I do finally manage to fulfill my quest to find some fresh baked local bread at a quirky little restaurant/café called Heidi’s…
Then, on the drive back to the campground we spot seals on the rocks. We turn back and pull into Strawberry Hill lookout where we get to watch a Grey Whale frolic for a good 15 minutes, plus numerous seals lounging on the rocks.
Back to camp for a quiet night in with our finds from the local wine shop and perhaps some more fresh crab…
Friday, August 21
A relative lie-in until 7:30am this morning was followed by a pleasant beach walk, the weather much warmer, but the sun still hiding away behind a thick layer of white clouds. The beach was still shrouded in sea mist but today we could see more of the dramatic rock formations that make up the coastline. Stanley and Rinsey had a fabulous time once again, frolicking and running wild on the near deserted beach, dipping and diving in the ferocious surf. Rinsey did have a near-nasty run in with a golden retriever who mistook her for a small rabbit-like mammal and chased her around for a while, biting at her butt. But Stanley came to the rescue and all was well.
Back at camp we packed up quick smart anticipating a fast run down the coast to our next non-reserved campsite…. People were already queing for our soon-to-be vacated spot…
We decide to skip the sea lions cave (the LARGEST in the world apparently), saving the $22 and 30min walk down the cliff in favor of a pair of binoculars and a perch on a cliff. We spotted at last 5, frolicking in the waves.
Motored on down to Florence, surviving on nothing but fresh picked blueberries until we scoped out a good breakfast spot. Florence is a pretty little harbor town once you get past the sprawl of Subways and big box stores (although the Fred Meyer is a great stop for stocking up on basic essentials and gas). We opted for a breakfast at the Little Brown Hen, right on 101 at the entrance to the historic town. Unassuming from the outside, but charming and quite modern inside, the food was SUPERB. Probably the best we’ve had so far. All made from scratch and some very interesting variations on the classic breakfast staples. I had The Brown Hen Scramble and Brian opted for the special, biscuits and gravy with fried chicken. The biscuits were scrumptious, huge, melt-in-your-mouth crumbly delights – saved mine for the drive and it kept me going all the way through Bandon.
Drive from Florence to Bandon uneventful, pretty scenery, but of the forest and lake kind rather than ocean. Good news is the road here is much straighter and smoother than earlier stretches, but still chock-a-block with RVs, motorhomes, campers, trailers and any possible variation on a bed-on-wheels you could dream up. Note to Orgeon Department of transport – August possibly not the best time to start roadworks on a 2 lane highway thats the only option for 100s of miles??
Breeze into Bandon – state park campground is full – start to get a little worried… town is quaint, ascertained on a drive by – looks like fun, we’ll be back tomorrow… . Head speedily to our top pick, Cape Blanco Campground, sign on the highway says full! Oh no – its only 2:30pm… . Well we decide to drive the 10 mile roundtrip into the camp to check it out for sure… beautiful spot, wide open sandy beaches, lush meadows, dramatic cliffs, lovely camp spots in thick forest, some with ocean views – all taken… . Camp host tells me they JUST filled up…. Arrrgghhh!! I had been so calm, must not start freaking… . Host tells us Humbug Mountain State Park 15 miles south has spots – no hookups though.
Drive south – fast. Coastline becomes even more dramatic and wild, towns smaller and less and less salubrious, some downright shabby. Campground nestled in canyon set back from a wild and rocky beach, unfortunately along here the coast and the cliffs embrace each other fiercely with nothing left in between, so the highway and our campground are mere yards from each other. They’ve made a good attempt to shield it though with foliage and our spot (A22) is definitely the most private in the rather crowded and unattractive campground, but no hookups and a long, tricky and disenchanting walk to the beach through the campground and along the camp road… . Once we make it to the beach – going under the highway – it is beautiful but small due to the cliffs, and a lot of people on it – plus the wind is ferocious, so after Brian and Stanley brave the waves for a few minute we retreat to the camp for a quite evening of crab, Oregon Rose and fresh tomato salad from our garden…
Saturday, August 22
Up early to scout out breakfast. Town (Port Orford) is little more than a wide-spot in the road (as our Frommers Guide so accurately described it). Looking a little hopeless until we spot an “Espresso & Pizza!” sign. Pull up to the Hard Rain Café. They only serve breakfast on weekends, but luck would have it we figure out that it is Saturday. We opt for Eggs Benedict and Cinnamon roll french toast. Well worth it – great coffee, yummy breakfast and we spy delicious pastries coming out of the oven.
Drove north back to Bandon to spend the day – hit the Wildlife Safari park for some quality time with a baby leopard and a baby lion… very cool. The place was a little depressing but the animals seemed in good shape. Lots of free roaming deer, sheep, goats, donkeys and lamas provided endless entertainment as well as great fodder for the ice cream cone cups of food we bought for a $1. Owen had a wonderful time feeding the goats – after he figured out it was best to lay your hand flat… . Only one picture due to camera breakdowns but some good video (to come).
Next a wild and windy beach walk along a cove known as Devils Kitchen, spectacular… . Then into Bandon for some decent fish and chips at the Bandon fish market. We also picked up some fresh prawns and a few fillets of Red Snapper for our dinners in the Redwoods. Headed back to camp for another scrumptious dinner of crab, tonight with corn on the cob baked right on the campfire… .
Sunday, August 23
Woke early and headed out down to Gold Coast. Found a fantastic spot for our last beachwalk on the Oregon Coast – something Way? Drove into Brookings where we purchased a new camera (our old compact Cannon had an unfortunate run-in with the Pacific Ocean), and had a pretty yummy lunch at a local brew pub/pizza house Wild River Pizza – very throwback to the 80s, vending machines, video games, pool tables, but obviously popular and full of kids… .
After lunch it was straight on down to Ca..li..forn..i…a and the Redwoods. Jedidiah Smith State Park was to be our home for the next 3 nights (the longest anywhere). We set up camp in a picture perfect setting. Jedidiah Campground is Brian’s all-time favorite. He came here with his family when he was 11 and has held many fond memories for many years. It is a beautiful place and clearly somewhere you could stay for weeks. Lots of trails to explore and the river right in your backyard. The only negative was the amenities, for the price the Oregon State Parks do give better value for money, but they aren’t the Redwoods!
We went for a drive to a nearby Redwood grove, Simpson Grove – there are Redwoods everywhere but certain thick groves are sponsored by certain people and there is a trail past them and it’s maintained naturally but efficiently. Simpson was very beautiful, wild forest, large looming trees, lush ferns and rhododendrons. The air feels fresher and lighter, even though you are in a dark dank forest. Apparently it’s all the extra O2… .
Dinner was fresh Red Snapper from Bandon roasted on the open fire, along with small whole red onions from Evelyn’s garden wrapped in foil with lots of butter and plopped in the coals – yummy.
Monday, August 24
Drive south towards the offical Redwood National Park, lots of hiking and fabulous elk spotting in Elk Meadow. We’re getting very hungry after our hiking and elk spotting, but Brian fancies heading south hoping we’ll find somewhere to eat between here and Arcata, which is 70 miles from our camp. We drive on. Beautiful coastline but find nothing resembling food that isn’t a) in dire need of a visit from a health inspector or b) insanely expensive or c) closed (it is Monday night).
We finally make it to Arcata (after a brief sojourn in the lovely Trinidiad) where we hunt around for a good place to eat. Arcata seems like a scary big city after a few days in the wilds of the Oregon coast (not helped by the hordes of hitchikers and slightly dodgy looking people…). We are anxious not to leave our truck with all our belongings and our puppies piled in it, unattended. So we manage some nifty paralell parking outside a nice brew pub where we munch on slightly overcooked burgers and fruity beer. Even thought it’s late and we’re 70 miles from ‘home’ we can’t resist the lure of a good independent grocery store – Wildberries – and both spend a good 20 minutes exploring our favorite sections (mine the cheese and wine brians the beer and coffee) and head home with our bounty (fresh local bread, fragrant local goats cheese, some fabulous beer by Samuel Smith).
Tuesday, August 25
A morning in Crescent City – not an exciting place. Wonder why a town on the ocean with the Redwoods at its back not thrive? We run some errands, including picking up some essential parts to keep the trailer moving, and get out quick, back to the glorious Redwoods.
We spend the afternoon lounging by the Smith River just behind our camp spot. Stanley has lots of fun jumping after rocks.
Wednesday, August 26
A final Redwood stroll through Stout Grove then we pack up for the drive to Crater Lake.
As we have reservations at our next camp site we take our time driving back into Oregon, one diversion is a delightful half an hour spent tasting the fruits of Del Rio Winery, just outside Gold Hill, Oregon.
Head into Crater Lake National Park as the sun is going down, a bit disappointed to find our campsite is 7 miles from the lake and right next to the toilets, but we settle in for a yummy dinner of steak and Oregon goat’s cheese.
Thursday, August 27
Breakfast at Crater Lake Lodge, a grand Sun Valley-like affair, great views, good food but measly portions! The lake is beautiful, but you can’t easily get down to the “shore”, so we settle for a stroll and a drive around the rim.
A quick drive north to Bend where we indulge in shopping, sushi and grocery stores before heading home on our long last drive.
Friday, August 28
We take an early morning stroll along the Deschutes river, do a bit more shopping and embark on our 8 hour drive home. Get in at 10:30 p.m., not too bad. The return home is slightly marred by the trailer stinking of a dead skunk we managed to drive over just south of Bellevue, but thankfully we can sleep in our real bed tonight. Exhausted, but happy after a fabulous vacation the Tuohys tumble into a deep sleep, dreaming of fresh crab, Oregon wine and waves hitting endless sandy beaches.